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LA's Search For an Iconic New Sixth Street Bridge

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Over on KCRW, the Design and Architecture show and its dulcet-toned host Frances Anderton have a detailed look at the city's recently-announced competition to design a bridge to replace the Sixth Street Viaduct just east of Downtown. Back in November, the City Council approved a Bureau of Engineering plan to tear down the old bridge (suffering from "concrete cancer") and replace it with a cable-stayed bridge. Architecture enthusiasts lamented the conceptual design of the new bridge as, in Anderton's words, "utilitarian but boring," especially because the old bridge so architecturally significant. Now Mayor Villaraigosa is pushing a higher agenda than the one in the B of E's recommended design: "This is an opportunity not just to build a bridge that's functional, but to build a bridge that truly symbolizes what LA is all about."

Friends of the Los Angeles River director and architect Alex Ward echoes the mayor, advocating for an iconic design that revitalizes the neighborhood: "San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Denver, Boston, and Dallas are building amazing bridges that do more than get you from one place to another, or even do more than just look pretty. They act as a catalyst for the revitalization of the community." Gary Lee Moore, the city's head engineer, also waxes rhapsodic about the potential of the new bridge: "I want people who walk across this to say, 'one of the best experiences I ever had was walking to the middle of the Sixth Street Bridge and looking out over Los Angeles and at the river downstream and upstream,'" adding, "It's not about concrete; it's about the people who use the bridge."

For architecture newbies, the feature helpfully explains the differences between suspension bridges, arches, and the cable-stayed design favored by the city (for good examples of cable-stayed bridges see the multi-modal bride in North Atwater currently in the works or the recently opened cable-stayed bridge by Santiago Calatrava in Dallas).

Anderton also describes how design competitions work, and how this project might differ from traditional competition formats. The competition website is not yet public (although the city does have a website for the Sixth Street Viaduct Seismic Retrofit Project), but more details should be available on the Los Angeles Business Assistance Virtual Network website when the Request for Proposals/Qualifications is released on April 25. Moore told DnA that after an eight week review, a small jury would cull applicants to a group of six to eight for interviews, and then to a group of three finalists to develop designs.
· A Bridge to the Imagination [DnA]
· Council Votes to Replace Sixth Street Viaduct With Cable Bridge [Curbed LA]

Sixth Street Viaduct

Whittier Blvd. & E. Sixth St., Los Angeles, CA